Here's an image of the full FOV (~3' wide), also:
Using a wider, ~9' field of view, the entire target is washed out. We used the images above simply because at wider FOVs smaller text is difficult to read regardless of light handling issues, due to the lower PPF.
Also, just to pre-emptively head off any sarcasm: don't say "use a camera other than Arecont."
Ethan, could you please make another picture with also the other side of credit card?.. It could be highly interesting, maybe not in order to improve the luminosity, but.....;))
What is actually the final goal here? To reach the best real-image quality possible, or just to read and recognize better the items?
Off the top of my head, I'd say the overall exposure of the scene is your main enemy - most of it is dark grey to almost black and that's undoubtably wreaking havok with the camera's exposure modes.
So first thing I'd do, if you want to maintain the FOV and overall contrast, is change the camera's metering mode, if possible - go to a spot or center-weighted mode, or define the text area as your exposure target...
If that's not an option, and all you have is full-frame averaging, the next step would be zooming in more on the lighter objects to reduce the black area in the frame.
Alternately, you change the background to a lighter shade of grey so the camera isn't overexposing to compensate.
Also, see if the camera has adjustable gain limits, which may allow you to reduce the maximum gain while leaving low-light performance unaffected.
AGC, AGC, AGC. I've said it before and I'll say it again - if the camera has AGC controls, turn them down or "Off".
I am taking classes and trying to participate. Seemingly F-stop would play a role in this discussion as relates to image quality or not? Would or could you change the lens to improve quality?
Do we ever know what chip sets come in all these different camera manufactures? If we say they are equal then evidently cameras must be designed better than others behind the chip set consequently not created equal. I am off base? Comments welcomed please.